What is Ananda Yoga?

Ananda Yoga®
For Higher Awareness


Namaste!
We greet all who spread the light of yoga,
no matter what their particular path may be.


Basic Goals of Ananda Yoga

Ananda Yoga, developed by Swami Kriyananda, is dedicated to the harmonious development of body, mind, and soul. Its primary goal is to increase our awareness and to raise our consciousness.

Swami Kriyananda writes:

Yoga, as union, implies perfect harmony of body, mind and spirit.

On a physical level, it implies glowing health.

On a mental level, it implies the harmonious integration of the personality, and the corresponding elimination of psychological “complexes.”

On the soul level, yoga implies union of the little self with the greater Self, of the ego with the vastness of cosmic awareness,

and of the individual soul with its infinite Source: God. —Swami Kriyananda, from an article, “What is Yoga?”

Our Body

Hatha Yoga is one of the best systems known to man for the relief of physical distress. It creates a feeling of health, well-being, harmony and balance, both during the practice and afterwards. The yoga positions (asanas) reduce stress, relax physical and mental tensions, lower high blood pressure, improve blood circulation, stimulate the functioning of the inner organs, digestion, elimination and metabolism; strengthen the nerves and the immune and endocrine systems; improve sleeping patterns; and increase physical vitality and flexibility.

Ananda Yoga is a system of gentle, natural movements that place a minimum of strain on the bodily system, with maximum benefit to it. The yoga postures, far from being a system of vigorous calisthenics, help to harmonize the body with natural law. The yogi learns how to develop his own latent powers rather than depend on some outer agent for his physical well-being.

Our Mind

The fruit of yoga practice should be a feeling of inner peace, mental relaxation, and the flowering of our most refined inner qualities. We awaken what we already have inside.

With each yoga posture we actively express and experience a specific inner quality. The tree pose (vrikasana) for example, naturally leads us to a feeling of centeredness and calmness. In Ananda Yoga we enhance the quality of each asana through the use of specific affirmations. In vrikasana, for example, we affirm silently: “I am calm, I am poised!” The use of appropriate affirmations for each asana makes Ananda Yoga unique in its field.

Our Soul

The final fruit of yoga practice should be a feeling of receptivity, stillness, inwardness. Ananda Yoga directs the energy (prana) inward and upward, leading naturally toward silent meditation and inner communion.

Patanjali’s profound Yoga Sutras, or aphorisms, have been looked upon for millennia as yoga’s definitive Scripture. He wrote: “Yogas chitta vritti nirodh – Yoga is the neutralization of the waves of feeling.” Yoga is the neutralization of ego-directed feelings because, once these become stilled, the yogi realizes that he is, and that he has always been, one with the Infinite – that his awareness of this reality was limited only by his infatuation with limitation.

The highest purpose of yoga is simply to place oneself in a position to fully receive a down-pouring of Spirit. If God’s grace is not experienced in the average human life, it is not because of divine indifference, but because man’s energies and attention are diverted elsewhere.

The yoga postures should therefore be done with a sense of worship if one is to receive from them the fullest benefit. They were originated, not by football coaches and P.E. teachers, but by great sages who recognized in certain postures the outward expressions of inward movements of the soul.

Developing Our Awareness

The primary purpose of Ananda Yoga is the development of higher awareness. We teach:

  • a progression from physical awareness to an awareness of energy (prana) in the body
  • awareness of states of mind, of thoughts and attitudes
  • awareness of our deepest inner nature, the soul.

In Ananda Yoga, the yoga postures are an instrument for gradual inner discovery. We think of them as an adventure in awareness.

Briefly

Happiness on all levels is the truest goal of our practice. The highest inner happiness is called Ananda (which is the Sanskrit word for bliss). Therefore our yoga tradition is called Ananda Yoga. Ananda is not an outer place. It is inside.

A Brief History of Ananda Yoga

Swami Kriyananda, the founder of Ananda Yoga, tells this fascinating story about the birth of Ananda Yoga which occurred when he was a young monk in Paramhansa Yogananda’s ashram:

“During the fall of 1949 Master asked me, in company with several other monks, to demonstrate the yoga postures before Swami Premananda ... I was at best a mediocre Hatha Yogi. Many of the postures I couldn't contort myself into at all. In Master’s presence that evening, however, I found myself suddenly capable of assuming even difficult poses with ease.”

It was a little miracle, and came as a special blessing from the Master. From this moment on, Swami Kriyananda was asked frequently to perform the asanas in Yogananda’s presence for visiting guests and other events. Kriyananda says that he learned the ancient postures in a silent inner way directly from Yogananda, performing them in front of him.

In time Swami Kriyananda developed Ananda Yoga, a meditative approach to Hatha Yoga.

What Did Paramhansa Yogananda Say about the Asanas?

Paramhansa Yogananda highly recommended yoga postures though they were not the central element of his teachings. During his lifetime he published yoga articles and instructions in his magazine from the 40s onward. Yogananda also had his monks demonstrate the asanas during public events. He taught them in his school at Ranchi, as we read in his Autobiography of a Yogi.

Yogananda, in a talk about the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, said:

But the idea is this, disease is a cause of great impediment. This is why the masters created Hatha Yoga. Because these exercises help to keep the body in good health. But many became interested in Hatha Yoga and forgot their purpose — to keep the body healthy in order to find God. If one follows these postures he will find his body in perfect condition.

From the Ancient Scriptures: Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga

Swami Kriyananda teaches that Hatha Yoga is the physical branch of Raja Yoga (the yoga of meditation). Indeed, the very first sentence of the foremost Hatha Yoga scripture, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, explains that Hatha Yoga is a staircase leading to Raja Yoga. Today, however, the yoga postures are often taught on a purely physical level. Ananda Yoga brings the ancient asanas back under the meditative wings of Raja Yoga.

Few yoga schools, perhaps, give as much emphasis to spiritual growth as we do in Ananda Yoga. Advancement in Ananda Yoga, in fact, is not the ability to hold difficult poses for a long time, and to stretch even further. Advancement is seen in growing inner awareness, in inner joy and harmony, in expansion of consciousness.

Swami Kriyananda explained to Hatha Yoga students in 1976:

We find that the whole system of Hatha Yoga is a very important tool for reminding us of our inner nature, and for strengthening that nature. Through increased awareness, we gradually become aware of the body on a spiritual level. Eventually we become aware of spirit without the body. This we do through the practice of meditation (Raja Yoga). When we meditate after doing the yoga postures in this way, the consciousness soars more naturally, not just because you’re physically relaxed but because you’re more aware that you aren’t just this body. You begin to feel you are space or light, and thinking of yourself in this way it is much easier to transcend.

Our Courses

Ananda Yoga of course, must be experienced personally, to feel its value. If you want to do so, we welcome you to our yoga courses. “Ananda Yoga for Body, Mind, and Soul” will give you a good introduction to Ananda Yoga. A deep and inspiring course is “Yoga for Awakening the Chakras.” A very useful course is “Yoga and the Spine.” And every year, we offer a Yoga and Ayurveda vacation in the tropical paradise of Kerala in southern India.

At times we add or delete courses, so please check our calendar.

We also offer a complete yoga teacher’s training program. The Ananda Yoga School of Europe is an honorary member of the International Yoga Federation.

For more information, please write us. We will be glad to be in touch with you.

Ananda Yoga teachers can be found in various cities in Europe. If you want to know about one in your area, please write us. In America, you can also visit The Expanding Light Yoga and Meditation Retreat.

May your practice blossom like the divine lotus!

AUM

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CHOOSE YOUR CURRICULUM
  • The spiritual hatha yoga based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda
  • "The secret of meditation is… relinquishing outward attachments and affirming divine freedom within." – The Secrets of Meditation, by Swami Kriyananda
  • Kriya Yoga is an advanced technique for spiritual evolution that comes down from higher ages of spiritual enlightenment.